What is Plyometric Training? What are the benefits?

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What is it?

Plyometric training is something that I have been incorporating into my exercise routine on a weekly basis for about a month now.  I usually do it on a leg day.   Plyometric training involves mostly bodyweight exercises making it efficient and practical for all.  Plyometric training includes explosive movements such as jumping, hopping, skipping, etc.  These movements are usually performed on different planes of movement, such as left-right, forward-backward, and up-down.
Plyometric exercise is one of the most time-effient training methods available, and has arguably the greatest transfer to sport application.¹
The purpose of plyometrics is to train muscle elastic strength and explosiveness.  It utilizes high-intensity and explosive movements to enhance an athletes overall power and agility with the stretch-shortening cycle–which is basically taking advantage of the muscle elasticity and the stretch reflex (eccentric loading immediately followed by a concentric contraction).  It has been studied that the quicker the muscle is stretched eccentrically, the greater the force will be on the following concentric contraction.²  This will help you to be more explosive and powerful at sprinting, explosive during your lifts–really can be applied to any sport or situation.

 The Research

After researching, I found many studies that proved positive results for the training style.  The first study evaluated the effects of plyometrics on muscle-activation in female athletes. To skip the boring and straight to the facts, the analyses showed an increase in firing of muscles and muscle activity with plyometric training, and the females involved in the training group showed an overall increase in vertical jump height after the 6-weeks of plyometrics.³ Also, found that females who participated in plyometric training had a significant decrease in number of serious knee injuries.³  Thus concluding,
“plyometric exercises should be incorporated into the training regimens of female athletes and may reduce the risk of injury by enhancing functional joint stability in the lower extremity.”³

The second journal article I found in my research studied plyometric training over 6-weeks for both male and female athletes with the focus on agility.  Overall, the athletes that participated in the plyometric training group performed significantly better overall than the control group in the two agility tests.  The plyometric group also had reduced their time significantly from the pre-test to post-test following the 6-week program4

 Beginning Plyometric Exercise

If you want to begin a plyometric program into your gym routine start slow to reduce injury¹.  Incorporate one exercise at a time and complete the reps for quality, not for time. Begin with double legged hops before beginning single-legged exercises.  Start with lower reps of bodyweight exercises such as tuck jumps, lateral side to side jumps,  or broad jumps.  Once you feel comfortable you can add plates and jump to a little bit of height and/or increase your reps.
My favorite Plyometric exercises include:
  • Squat Jumps to height (box or plate between legs, squat and jump to that object)
  • Lateral Jump-Overs (usually using a bench or bar)
  • Step-ups with high knee kick
  • Box-jumps
  • 180° jumps
  • Single Legged jumps to Plate or low box
  • Push ups to Plates
  • Click the link below for more examples:

Bodybuilding.com Examples of Plyometric Exercises

 References:
¹Barnes, Michael. “Introduction to Plyometrics.” NSCA’s Performance Training Journal 2.2. Web. 27 June 2015. <www.myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/chalmers/pdfs/introduction to plyometrics.pdf>.
²Bosco, C., Komi, P.V., & Ito, A. 1980. Prestretch potentiation of humanskeletal muscle during ballistic movement. Acta Physiol Scand. 111. pp 135-140.
³Chimera, Nicole, Kathleen Swanik, Buz Swanik, and Stephen Straub. “Effects of Plyometric Training on Muscle-Activation Strategies and Performance in Female Athletes.” Journal of Athletic Training 39.1 (2004): 24-31. Web. 27 June 2015. <www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc385258/pdf/attr_39_01_0024.pdf>.

4Miller, Michael, Jeremy Herniman, Mark Ricard, et al. “The Effects of a 6-week Plyometric Training Program on Agility.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 5.3 (2006): 459-65. Web. 27 June 2015. <www.jssm.org/vol5/n3/12/v5n3-12pdf.pdf>.

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